Chief Norman Cook Dies Suddenly

On July 20, 1941, the department lost its third chief in a row to an unexpected death. Chief Norman Cook died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 42. He was also the third chief in a row to die in the month of July as Chief O'Brien died July 1, 1933 and Chief Fohey on July 20, 1939. At the time of his death he was vacationing with his family at their cottage at Base Lake. He had been with the department since 1923, was promoted to sergeant in 1926 and to chief in 1939.

Under his tenure the department upgraded its records systems, constructed the police pistol range and improved relations with the university. Chief Cook was also opposed to the “fixing of tickets,” which one could assume was a fairly common practice before he was appointed. He also believed that juvenile crime could be prevented if officers became friends with juveniles. He emphasized courteous conduct with the public and believed in modern scientific police work. He instituted the policy of police marksmanship, which required an officer to qualify at the range with a score of at least 60 out of 100. Any score lower than 60 would result in the officers removal from the department. Chief Cook was born in Saline and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery. Chief Cook was lauded at his funeral service for his progressive approach to police work.

Sgt. Sherman Mortenson was promoted to chief, soon after Chief Cook's death. Officer Barney Gainsley was promoted to sergeant to take Chief Mortenson's place.

The War Years

World War Two saw many changes within the city. While it may be hard to understand, civilians thousands of miles away from the battlefields of World War Two felt the fear of this unstable period. When the war started, the police commission contacted the draft board to obtain deferments for those officers that were eligible for the draft. In a letter to the draft board the commission stated if those officers eligible for the draft left employment with the police department, the strength of it would be 28 sworn officers. The deferment was granted until 1942, at which time the draft board announced that it was rescinded due to the growing war.

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This was during a time when the department's resources were pushed to the limit, due to the protection of city plants producing war time goods. It was during this time that women took positions inside of the police department that were once reserved for men. While only male officers worked outside and made arrests, women established their presence in the police department, which would not cease, even after the war.

Interestingly, the police commission proposed the hiring of women to the city council and stated that they would continue to be employed at the conclusion of the war. Chairman A.D. Moore stated, “I have long believed that we should use women to maximum advantage in police department work. It is quite possible that the work assigned to these women will be handled better by them, and at less cost to the city.”

Due to fears of sabotage, armed guards were posted at factories in town that produced material for the war effort. Chief Mortenson conferred with the F.B.I. on how to protect these factories from possible sabotage. To prepare citizens for possible war emergencies, such as air raids, most large cities had a Civilian Defense Corps.

In Ann Arbor the Civilian Defense Corps was headed by Chief of Police Sherman Mortenson. As you can see by looking at the organizational chart of the Civilian Defense Corps, there was extensive work that went into it to prepare for virtually any wartime emergency.

Air raids were thought to be a real possibility and the city attempted to prepare for these with scheduled blackouts. These “test” blackouts were conducted regularly and only certain buildings were exempt.

When the first test blackout was held on July 16, 1942, at 10:30 p.m., only war producing factories were allowed to keep their lights on. People were ordered into their homes and were told to park their vehicles immediately, if they were traveling and the air raid sirens sounded.

This test was taken very seriously and once done, officials considered it a success. They could observe only four points of light coming from the city. Even the hospitals were subject to the blackout. For those that refused to cooperate they were threatened with misdemeanor violations under the city's blackout ordinance. These violations were punishable by 90 days in jail and a $100 fine. Even smoking was prohibited, as it was feared an enemy pilot could see the glow from the cigarette. During the blackouts, patrolmen drove through the city looking for violators. All lights, no matter how small, had to be extinguished during the tests, which normally lasted for a half hour.

No violations were issued for the first test blackout, but 24 violations were given after the second. There were numerous businessmen ticketed for not having the lights in their businesses off. Drivers who failed to stop their cars and shut off their lights were ticketed, as were homeowners that had lights on.

Soon after the war began, the Defense Corps appointed 550 neighborhood Air Raid Wardens. These wardens went to every residence in the city to inspect the homes and advise the residents on procedures that would take place, if the city was bombed by “enemy planes.”

The wardens did extensive work and research. Each one was assigned a certain section of the city. They were responsible for mapping out critical areas of their section, such as where high tension wires were, where invalids lived that would need evacuation, where fire hydrants were and other crucial information.

The city itself took steps to help in the war effort by collecting salvage materials that could be used in factories for war materials. The city provided sand for citizens which was to be used to extinguish incendiary bombs, in case of an enemy attack. If the city was bombed, sand was effective in extinguishing fires from incendiary bombs. Citizens were told to pick the sand up at the city municipal garage and store it at their homes in case of attack.

There was also the fear of sabotage of the radio equipment within the city, rendering communication ineffective. To confront this possibility a generator was purchased in case the radio system failed.

Rationing was also in effect during the war years. Automobiles, rubber products, food and gasoline were the major items that were rationed during this period. Automobiles were sold to workers with essential wartime job functions. There was a black market for many of these items rationed and the department was often called to investigate these illegal sales.

The rationing of gasoline also affected the police department as they were forced to reduce the amount of gas that officers were using, especially during 1943. The police commission decided to alleviate this problem by having minor complaints handled over the phone, instead of sending a patrol car to the scene. One patrol car was taken off the afternoon and midnight shifts and the officers were told to shut off their patrol cars when not in use.

When the end of the war was announced, citizens flooded the streets downtown. Two Ann Arbor Officers were walking their beats on State Street when the celebration began. They tried in vain to direct traffic, but the crowds surged into the streets. The crowd circled the officers and picked them up over their heads, passing them through the crowds.

One of the officers stood on the shoulders of the crowd laughing, pretending to be directing traffic. Another officer was flashing the “V” sign with his fingers, which stood for victory, as he was being carried through the crowd.

The Ann Arbor News stated, “Pappy Howard, dean of Ann Arbor's policemen, never grinned more broadly as he hand-wagged streamer be-decked autos along E. Huron, toward the bedlam of Main Street.”

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In 1941, the department only had three cars with two way radio capabilities. Although the cars had radios, beat officers did not. The beat officers had to periodically phone the police station to see if they were needed. The department's radio engineer, S.S. Sturgeon, was trying to perfect a radio receiver that the beat officers would carry. This radio, tested by Officer Barney Gainsley, did not have two way capabilities, but would enable the beat officers to receive radio transmissions. It would be years before a capable two way radio was engineered for the beat officers.